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Race debrief: James Calado analyses the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

Maranello 13 May 2021

The 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship champion looks back over the weekend of the Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours, the first race of Season 9 of the world championship.

“Talking about going into Spa it was obviously nice to be back in the WEC, which is my favourite championship, the one I’ve done for so many years. I always enjoy the atmosphere in the paddock of this series, and I was happy to see many friends again. After the Prologue, we were reasonably happy with the performance of our 488 GTE. We have a new engineer this year – Marco – and we started working together here at Spa for the first time. I’d done no testing prior, so it was the first time in the car for over three months because my last time in the car was at the 24 Hours of Daytona! However, after the first few metres, I immediately regained my rapport with the car because it’s like learning to ride a bike; once done, you never really forget. Alessandro [Pier Guidi, Ed] defined the basic setup, and after a few changes, in the second free practice session, I was happy with the car. With the new set of tyres we had fitted, I was in first position, so the start was encouraging. Alessandro was the designated driver for qualifying, so he was the one who drove the most during the third free practice. Then in the official practice, he earned second row. Unlike our rivals, though, Alessandro kept one new set of tyres going in a session characterised by numerous crashes and interruptions. It wasn’t easy to get the tyres up to temperature because it was freezing, and there was very little time. The 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps got off to a good start, and we quickly moved up to second place by overtaking our sister car. We were aware that we didn’t have the pace to stay with the Porsche. It seems that Estre was on another planet compared to us. Second position, however, was great for us, also because anything can happen during the race. I jumped into the car, and I did two very good stints. I was delighted with how the 488 GTE handled. That was my job done. I then handed over to Ale to finish the race that he brought home in second place so I’m happy with how it went. I’m satisfied with my performance and also the work done with the engineers and the team. We know that Porsche has a slight advantage at the moment, so we will analyse the data to try to work on the car and cut the gap. With this in mind, for the team, as first race, second place and obviously a double podium for Ferrari was a good result. Almost surprisingly, this time the race at Spa was held without the weather complicating matters, even though there is a microclimate here that makes forecasting a real lottery. The race took place in the dry, which took away a few variables that we could have used to our advantage, but it was still an excellent race, and I am happy with the result. The next goal is to train to be ready for the next challenge in Portugal: I can’t wait!”